As breast cancer awareness month (October) comes to an end, it is vitally important to recognise the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, as well as what support is available locally.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the UK but less than half of women still don’t regularly check their breasts. However, it doesn’t only affect women as around 80 men a year, compared to 11,500 women, will die from breast cancer.
For many women, the first sign is a lump but there are many other signs and symptoms too and if you notice any of the following you should see your GP:
• a change in the size or shape of one or both breasts
• discharge from either of your nipples (which may be streaked with blood)
• a lump or swelling in either of your armpits or around your collar bone
• dimpling on the skin of your breasts, redness or a rash on the skin and/or around your nipple
• a change in the appearance of your nipple, such as becoming sunken into your breast
• constant pain in your breast or armpit
Dr Neil Smith, Macmillan GP for NHS Blackburn with Darwen and NHS East Lancashire Clinical Commissioning Groups, said: “It’s really important to be aware of what your breasts normally look and feel like as any unusual changes need to checked by your doctor. The chances of successfully treating breast cancer increase the earlier it is found.”
Dr Smith and the two commissioning organisations have won a number of awards for their work in cancer services. Both CCGs, along with East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, Lancashire County Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council are partners in the Macmillan Cancer Improvement Partnership (MCIP), launched in 2014. This is a £1million pioneering three-year programme to provide better care and support for cancer patients from the moment of diagnosis to beyond treatment. As part of this partnership, a local Macmillan Move More Programme has been established to support people with all cancers but particularly breast cancer to be more physically active.
The Move More Programme provides support including:
• One to one assessments and consultations
• Access to friendly, highly qualified exercise professionals
• A tailored activity programme
• Help with setting personal goals and planning ongoing support
• Discussing concerns or providing more information about the benefits of physical activity
• Access to a wide variety of physical activity sessions.
Councillor Brian Taylor, Assistant Executive Member for Health and Social Care at Blackburn with Darwen Council, said: “The Move More sessions give people the chance to increase their activity levels and try out different activities such as Tai Chi, Pilates and Gentle Exercise Circuits with professional support. People attending the group are at various stages of cancer diagnosis and treatment and the sessions help to find effective and safe ways to be active and stay active.”
Dr Smith added: “Our exercise specialists will help you find effective and safe ways to be active and stay active. It is becoming clear that there are specific benefits of physical activity no matter where you are on your cancer journey, whether that is before, during or after treatment.”
People with any form of cancer are able to self-refer or be referred to the programme before, during or after treatment and at the point they feel that they would like to get support to be more active.